Animations, space and time

While I was working on the images for the work in progress portfolio, I produced short animations, principally to illustrate the process of channel mixing that I had developed. After sharing and discussing these with Jesse and Michelle, and others on the course, I decided to include them in the portfolio. To be included, they have to do more than illustrate a process, so I have edited them to fit with the theme and setting of each series in the portfolio. These are the three resulting one minute animations.

Andrew Brown, 2019, compress animation
Andrew Brown, 2019, displace animation
Andrew Brown, 2019, erase animation

Doing this has also led me to reflect on the wider photographic context for this work. I am using a method similar to that used by Muybridge in his exploration of human and animal movement. ‘Horse in Motion’ (Muybridge, 1878) shows 12 consecutive images of a horse running, which can be combined, using a stop-motion style technique. This work is commonly seen as providing the inspiration for the development of motion pictures.

Eadweard Muybridge, 1878, The Horse in Motion

The juxtaposition of successive photographs of animals and humans in movement reveals what could not be perceived by a human viewer in real time. The initial motivation for ‘The Horse in Motion’ was to discover if at any time all four of the horse’s legs were off the ground. There are two levels of fiction here. Firstly, each image is a fiction, a point of seemingly static transition in fluid movement created by the act of photography: though presented as individual images, no point in the sequence can exist independently of the others, apart from as an image. Our resultant understanding of motion is a product of the translation of temporal into spatial relations. Secondly, by combining the photographs into an animation, perceptual transitions are created (intermediary states, between one photograph and the next) that do not have any corresponding material image. This is particularly the case with my animations, where the process of dissolving one image into another creates images that I have not produced. Here we are dealing with perceptual, in Muybridge’s animation, and digital, in my animation, artefacts, which challenge claims (and desire) for the indexicality of the photographic image.

This is explored by contemporary artists using photography. Catherine Yass, for instance, has explored the passage of time and its relationship with space. In her early work, Yass has made successive positive and negative images of the same scene and overlaid these on a light box. Small differences in time (between exposures) are made visible in this process. She sees the process of overlaying as disrupting sense of space and position.

More recent work has involved digital video from a drone moving around an object, and the slowing of the video to one eighth speed whilst maintaining frame rate, which forces the creation of new imaginary moments through digital interpolation (like the channel mixing composites, where interaction between layers produces images as fictions, and the production of animations of these images, which produces new images as transitional artefacts).

Catherine Yass, 2011, Lighthouse (north)

She has also looped and manipulated the Harold Lloyd clock scene from the 1923 film Safety Last to play with notion of time and direction of the flow of time. Most recently, she has left 4×5 sheet film in the street to decay and displayed the results on a lightbox to explore time and decay.

Catherine Yass, 2011, Decommissioned

Through my own composite images I aim to explore changing notions of time. As Yass (2017) states, photographs, and the critical juxtaposition of moving and still images, offer exciting ways of exploring this.

“The time in the photograph, the movement within and between two photographs as well, is so conceptually different from a moving image and yet they’re a tiny millimetre apart. I started filming things but slowing them down by incredible amounts so they were almost still. That was a little jump into the moving image and I got more excited by it” [online, no page]

This ambiguous relationship between still and moving image, and the capability to produce movement from still images and still images from moving images, and to manipulate this, demonstrates the power of photography to explore the nature of time and its relationship to space and place. Where my work, and that of Yass and others, differs radically from earlier (say, futurist) artistic explorations of time, movement and the still image is that I am not trying to represent movement or the passage of time in a still image, but to disrupt time and explore conceptions of time. The animations are part of that exploration. A key difference between the still images and the animation is the agency that is given to the viewer. The author grasps control of sequencing and the temporal juxtaposition in the animation (but not, of course, its meaning, only an influence on its meaning potential), whereas sequencing and juxtaposition of individual still images is in the hands of the reader (though, again, this can be subverted in, for instance, book format). The form of Chris Marker’s film La Jetée (1962), composed almost entirely of still images, explores this relationship, and it is notable that Marker preferred to describe La Jetée as a photo novel, rather than a film (Hinckson, 2014).


Hinckson, J. 2014. “There’s No Escape Out of Time”: La Jetée., Macmillan. Online: [accessed 20.04.19]

La Jetée. 1962. Directed by Chris Marker. France: Argos Films.

Muybridge, E. 1878. The Horse in Motion. San Francisco: Morse’s Gallery

Safety Last. 1923. Directed by Fred Newmeyer and Sam Taylor. USA: Hal Roach Studios

Yass, C. 2017. Quoted in British Journal of Photography, ‘When does photography stop being photography?’ 6th April 2017. Online: [accessed 20.04.19]

In Defence of the Grey Image

[With apologies to Hito Steyerl].

Interesting presentation from Sam Laughlin on 10th April. Although the focus of Sam’s work is predominantly rural, he is exploring a number of issues that overlap with my own work, which is predominantly urban. In relation to Informing Contexts, he provided a particularly strong rationale for his work, and related his objectives very clearly to his way of working, the forms of images produced and how these are displayed.

Sam Laughlin, from the Frameworks series

Frameworks explores the essence of a building, before it becomes architectural space. A clear set of criteria guide the selection of sites (with extensive location scouting), and a firm set of operating principles guide the production of the image (working at night, large format camera, small aperture, long exposure) and the ultimate aesthetic form (a ruin in reverse, transparency, the sense of an Escher print, the suggestion of an object). The ‘greyness’ of the image forces the viewer to explore every part of the frame, with no colour, high contrast or strong lines to guide the eye. In many ways, this reflects a concern about my own recent images, which I now see as a strength. There is a need to search, but this turns up unexpected interactions and artefacts.

Sam Laughlin, from the Slow Time series

The same aesthetic is evident in Laughlin’s subsequent work, which focuses on natural cycles (nutrients, water). These images have even less structure, and the subject in some cases is difficult to discern. This places an emphasis on the process even more on the suggestion of subject. Laughlin has thought carefully about how this work is exhibited, displaying print directly on the wall without glass (so as to engage the viewer directly with the work without the distraction of reflections or frame) and using print size, scale and placement, and juxtaposition with objects and artefacts to guide and provoke (but not direct) engagement. The work is clearly not made for online viewing, and this raises questions about how best to promote the work and cultivate an audience.

Sam Laughlin, Slow Time exhibition

I wasn’t expecting to be working in black and white (though the rationale for this is now clear) nor to be producing such complex images (likewise). It is clearly the least graphic (and therefore the ‘greyest’) images that work best. There are similarities with images produced by Idris Khan and Sohei Nashino in tonality and complexity, and absence of visual guidance for the view (but both do provide points of reference given the emphasis on a specific place, albeit at different scales, and different form of composite image making). A clear issue for me, in developing this work, is how best to circulate and display the images.

Idris Khan, St Paul’s, London, 2012
Sohei Nashino, Dioarama Map Bern, 2012

Imaginary Cities

British Library, 5th April 2019


The exhibition presents four technology-based installations that derive from images of 19th-century maps, and associated meta-data, held in the British Library digital collection, created by digital artist Michael Takeo Magruder (an artist in residence at the British Library) with collaborators Mahendra Mahey (British Library), Drew Baker (independent researcher) and David Steele (software architect).

Of particular interest in the development of my own work is the movement between analogue and digital. The maps themselves are exemplary analogue representations, which have been digitally archived. The archiving process produces not just a digital (re)presentation of the map, but adds meta-data to this (effectively a digital encoding of the narratives, for instance of origins, authorship, circulation, association, ownership and functions that become attached to and associated with the map as artefact). The meta-data itself becomes subject to processing, and thus available in the production of artwork relating to the maps. With the map as a point of origin, a data trail is formed, and from this artworks are created.

A conversation with artist Michael Takeo Magruder

The talk provided insight into the process of production of the work. Magruder is interested in production of tangible objects, including the use of traditional craft techniques. Outputs from this project include 3D and digital prints, and objects made with wood and gold – analogue and digital together. He also uses prosumer and consumer VR in to allow visitors to explore the imaginary city produced from maps of New York. He sees himself as applying the language of the visual arts to things that are ‘digitally born’. Previous work has been about visualising data; this is about visualising (digital) archives. Drew Baker explained the process of production of 3D visual content from real-time data (as an archaeologist he relates this back to the process of finding, extrapolating, understanding, archiving, disseminating and exploring archaeological material – lost and marginal spaces). David Steele, software architect, explored the process of building a continuous archive (with minimal intervention and maintenance) and processing of information. Interestingly, he presented the relationship between software engineers and artists in the production process as similar to Sol Lewitt’s use of instructions to galleries in creating exhibitions (this might also bring to mind Jeff Koons’ production of sculptural work – providing an instruction set, oversight, quality control, authentication).

It is clear that there is huge potential to draw on the BL digital collection and to do collaborative work. There are interesting questions to explore about the relationship between place (as represented in the maps) and the artworks (imaginary cities) produced, and the nature of the ‘processing’ (both analogue and digital) that sits between these. I was tempted to say that this is uni-directional (the process of creation of the work, but, of course, the viewer remakes a pathway back from the artwork (to another imaginary place). There are obvious analogies with my own current work, which creates imaginary scenarios from the manipulation of digital interaction between images. The starting conditions are ‘real’, in the sense that they are photographs of human activity and the environment in a particular place at a specific point in time (and we can therefore exercise our desire for the indexical promise of the photograph), from which a number of fictions are created by bringing the images together and varying the conditions of their interaction. Those conditions relate to the visual (in that they depend on the translation of colour into tones, and the combination of those tones). The question is, though, whether that is any more or less arbitrary than any other principle of translation. In the installations, numerical data (some derived from visual sources, some not) are translated into visual form. The principles (or, in other words, the algorithm, programme or software) by which this translation takes place can exhibit differing degrees of arbitrariness – an imaginary city can be generated from any starting point and develop according to any principle. However, the artist (if it is an artwork) has to account for this in their rationale (or intent).

One interesting observation about the process of creating an interactive environment was the use, by the programmer, of a cryptographic hash to obscure the relationship between the viewer and the effect on the work, to stop viewers from ‘gaming’ the system, and learning how to control it by getting a ‘feel’ for the algorithm.


The algorave (billed as ‘the world’s largest algorave in a national library ever’!) was also interesting in this respect. Here we have code generating sound (and visuals, through light shows and projections), some through intention, some through response to the environment, some through arbitrary or random processes (including glitches in the hardware, software, data, programmer). Heuristically, there are also questions about what we learn about the initial and final state, the process, about ourselves and others (as creators, as audience, as collaborators).


British Library Digital Scholarship Blog. Online [accessed 24.04.19]

British Library Digital Scholarship Department. Online[accessed 24.04.19]

Michael Tadeo Magruder. Online[accessed 24.04.19]

Moving Objects Symposium and Exhibition.

UCL Institute of Advanced Studies Common Ground, 14th March 2019.

The ‘Moving Objects’ symposium was held to launch the ‘Moving Objects: Stories of Displacement’ exhibition at the UCL Octagon space. The exhibition explores people, animals and objects in exile, in the UK and the Middle East. It includes photographic work by migrants in London created through a series of workshops held by the Helen Bamber Foundation. This work explores the ambiguity of objects as they move through everyday and museum settings. The work examines both exiled and migrated objects and the capacity of objects to move us.

Photo by participants of the Helen Bamber Foundation Photography Group

The symposium explored issues raised by a number of inter-disciplinary projects carrying out research on objects, migration, heritage and well-being. The ‘History, archives and displacement’ panel explored the role of writing and the arts, including photography, in creating critical spaces and different ways of seeing, feeling, hearing, understanding and being with individuals and communities affected by displacement (see, for instance, the Refugee Hosts project). Heritage objects (the real and the wished for) play a key role in the empowerment of communities. Archives need to be dynamic, allowing reflexive questioning and capable of projecting into the future, including wishful futures. The archive must ‘have wings’ not be a cemetery, or sink into the past; objects should facilitate comment and desire their own redundancy (Leila Samsur talking about Open Bethlehem ). See, for instance, the Unpacked: Refugee Baggage series by Mohammed Hafez.

Mohammed Hafez, UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage, 2017

And, as Derrida (1995) observes, we have to closely scrutinise what enters the archive and what does not. For my own work, care has to be taken not to create something that is reductionist and backward looking. The idea of a portable archive is one avenue to explore.

The Photography and Displacement panel included a presentation by Alejandra Carles-Tolra on the Helen Bamber Photography Group workshop, which includes handling and discussion of objects from the UCL collections (the objects providing a focus for discussion, fun and conversation). The images made by the group members are shared and discussed through WhatsApp and shared Google folders.

Samar Maqusi, Baqa’a Camp, Amman, Jordan, 2014

Samar Maqusi presented her research on the spatial politics of the Palestine refugee camps, and the role played by installations and photographic work in the research. Spending time in the place was important (it is a pre-cursor of image making and can be ‘seen’ in the frame; she raises the question of whether powerful personal stories can be told without being in the frame), and the camera was viewed as a mechanical bodily enhancement. Time (excess including waiting time: what does waiting do to hope?) and space (limitations) are intertwined in the camps. The presentations reinforced the importance of spending time with people to understand their context, their relationship to time and their relationship to space and place.


Derrida, J. 1995. ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression’. Diacritics, 25 (2): 9-63

Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2019 shortlist exhibition.

The Photographers Gallery, London.

I’m going to explore the work of the four featured artists, and the manner in which the work is exhibited, in relation to the development of my own work (particularly given the focus of the course material on galleries and the gallery system this week).

Mark Ruwedel explores marks made on the landscape by geological, social and political events. Often he photographs the same place or the same phenomena (for instance, bomb craters or ruined houses) a number of times. I should explore this kind of approach around the estates I am focusing on. One option would be to see what kind of effect is achieved from using the channel mixing process on the same scene photographed with different lighting.

 Mark Ruwedel, ‘Artist and Society’

In the accompanying video, Ruwedel observers that ‘Regardless of their intentions, almost all photographs grow up to be documentary photographs’, raising an interesting perspective on the distinction between art and documentary (and other forms of) photography. Ruwedel sees his work being possibly of more interest to geologists or engineers in the future, as opposed to being seen as art. Paul Graham has noted the same phenomena in relation to his DHSS photographs, which are now used an historical record of a particular period of social history. This reverses the passage noted in the Week 9 presentation (in relation to Richard Prince’s appropriation of the Marlboro Man image) from commercial to art photography.

The exhibition covers an number of series of work, and includes books as well as prints (analogue, often with handwritten captions) which stress the craft aspect of photographic practice.

The other three photographers are working in a more conventionally documentary form, and present a range of different media. Susan Meiselas includes films, maps, letters, found photographs, booklets and artifacts. The show emphasises the manner in which her way of working adapts to the project. The map with booklets telling the stories of migrants is particularly effective in combining text and image.

Susan Meiselas, ‘Mediations’

Whereas the the Ruwedel and Meiselas exhibits cover a range of projects, Laia Abril’s exhibit focuses on her On Abortion publication, the first part of her long-term project A History of Misogyny. The longer term project provides an overarching conceptual framework, and the projects are viewed as chapters. This particular project started as an exhibition and became a book. As with Meiselas, there is a mix of images, texts, objects and films, and it is both an emotional/political exploration, and informational (in making certain practices visible). As an exhibition, it allows the viewer to chart their own way through the material, and their own pace, but could clearly be presented in other settings.

Laia Abril, ‘On Abortion’ 

Arwed Messmer’s exhibit similarly focuses on one particular project, an exploration of the Red Army Faction. Taking the decade from 1867 to 1977, Messmer charts the activity of the group almost in the style of a police or forensic investigation (similar, in this sense, to Forensic Architecture’s work, but drawing on archival and historic material). He presents his work as ‘authored documentary photography’, but with a heavy reliance on uncredited documents and photographs from which he constructs and presents a narrative. Details of what is shown in the photographs is withheld to allow the viewer to make sense of what they see, and to retain the enigmatic nature of photography (details relating to the material presented are given in an appendix). The archive provides the basis for the book and exhibition.

Arwed Messmer, ‘RAF – No Evidence’

For my own work, I have four distinct examples of how a range of media are presented and how coherence is achieved and an audience engaged. As the work on urban regeneration is developing, I need to think about how the different types of work produced can be integrated. If, for instance, it does give rise to a kind of archive (or a number of archives relating to different setting), I have to think about how this would translate into, say, exhibitions, in community as well as gallery settings. The work presented here emphasizes that there need not be a chasm between gallery and other settings. Rather than agonize about the extent to which photography can be seen to be art (as some of the readings and presentations this week have), it is more productive to consider the particular strengths of photography in being able to incorporate and work alongside other media within inter-disciplinary settings (this is reinforced by the manner in which film and photography is used by the Turner Prize shortlisted artists this year, see discussion here).

Spacetime and photography

Whilst photography must, in essence, directly address time (in the moment of capture, for instance) and space (in, for instance, the locatedness of the making of the image), addressing the passage of time and spatial difference has been a challenge, without sliding into other forms of (re)presentation (video, for instance). The most obvious strategy is juxtaposition, the bringing together of two or more images that signify difference or transition (in time or space, or perspective, identity, experience or any other differentiating dimension). As Baetens et al (2010) observe ‘Time and space are the yin and yang of photography’ and that ‘The more you press on space, the more the notion of time will return with a vengeance-and vice versa’ (p.vii).

The use of juxtaposition and the layering of photographic images to convey, and disrupt, a sense of time is exemplified by the two 1931 photobooks of Moshe Raviv-Vorobeichic, Wilna and Paris, the latter with an introduction by the Futurist painter Fernand Leger (the Futurists, of course, had a fundamental interest in the representation of movement and the passing of time in the visual arts, including sculpture, painting and photography) . Vorobeichic studied at the Bauhaus, and, in particular, the montages of Paris display the dynamic exploration of relationships, and contradictions, of the modern 20th Century city.

‘The flashlike acts of connecting elements not obviously belonging together. Their constructive relationships, unnoticed before, produce the new result. If the same methodology were used generally in all fields we would have the key to our age – seeing everything in relationship‘. (Moholy-Nagy, L, 1947: 68)

Pages from Vorobeichic, M.R [Moi Ver]. 1931. Paris. Paris: Éditions Jean Walter.

The form taken by Vorobeichic’s Paris montages also meets the challenge issued by Sergei Eisenstein:

‘montage is not an idea composed of successive shots stuck together but an idea that DERIVES from the collision between two shots that are independent of one another …each sequential element is arrayed, not next to the one it follows, but on top of it’ (Eisenstein, 1988a: 163-164).

These aspects of Vorobeichic’s work are explored by Nelson (2010). The conception of time in this analysis is strongly influenced by the historical materialism of the Frankfurt School critical theorists, and in particular the writing of Walter Benjamin. Contemporary photographic artists, such as Mari Mahr, continue to work with similar forms of montage and juxtaposition, but extending this to include artifacts and photographs as artifacts (see also earlier post about Peter Kennard’s political photomontage work).

Mari Mahr, Life Chances series, 1996

Forbes and McGrath (no date: 2) state that:

‘Mahr’s photographs join the past and the present , the personal and the historical. They might be thought of as ‘”sendings” (envois), which never reach their final destination or reunite with the object or idea they represent (Jacques Derrida cited in Jay, 1993)’.

Whilst I am also attempting to engage with challenge of incorporating a sense of time in my work, I am doing so in the context of contemporary scientific notions of time and a re-configuring of the humanities and social sciences in post-humanist theory (see Hayles, 2018, for an exploration of the relationship between contemporary science and humanities, and in particular the influence of notions of chaos). A key characteristic of current theories of time in physics is that they depart dramatically from our common sense notions and human experience of time. This is explored by Grace Weir in her installation Time Tries All Things at the Institute of Physics in London.

Time Tries All Things, installation by Grace Weir, Institute of Physics, London.

This is a dual channel video work, with accompanying sculpture, in which two theoretical physicists explore contrasting ways in which general relativity and quantum theory can be brought together in understanding spacetime (a term which reinforces the assertion that, in contemporary physics, no conceptual distinction can be made between space and time).

Dowker (2019), in the exhibition catalogue, states that:

‘On the subject of “time”, however, there is not consensus on whether our perceptions can be coordinated with our current best scientific world view. We perceive time passing and make sense of our lives within the context of a fixed past that has happened and an open future that hasn’t happened yet. But the dominant view amongst theoretical physicists is that the Universe is a Block in which the future already exists and time doesn’t pass.’ [no page]

She adds that to seek alternative ways of thinking about spacetime ‘requires new thinking along lines we probably can’t foresee. How do we break out of old ways of thinking and create new knowledge that yet remains disciplined by and true to all that we already know? We need to understand our current best theories , General Relativity and quantum theory, as well as we can … We can also look to art, music and literature to inspire and to challenge.’ [no page]

The departure from human perception of time acts to de-centre the human subject in much the same way as post-humanist theory (and, in a more extreme form, object oriented ontology or speculative realism). In my own image making, I want to attempt to subvert an assumed directionality in time. Global development is intertwined but not co-terminal with human development, and tensions between the natural and the built environment, and human activity within these environments, entail interdependency, indeterminancy and precariousness. An appropriate visual strategy has to incorporate this, and should find a way to explore interactions between and within spacetime. If there are layers and juxtapositions of images, these have to interact and influence each other, ether within the image or in the mode of presentation of the work. The mixing of images that I am exploring produces new images in which the different channels interact. The images are complex, and care has to be taken to make them accessible to an audience, both through the construction of the images, and how they are presented (in themselves and alongside other forms of images, media and artifacts). I’ll explore this in another post.

As with other aspects of my development as a photographer, there is a personal dimension to taking this direction. I failed to learn to read at infant school and was a ‘remedial reader’ in junior school (more on this another time). My way into literacy was through Marvel comic books (I had a bike and did paper rounds from the age of 9, getting paid double by the newsagent if I took payment in comics). I read these obsessively, and when I’d started to get the hang of the text, I transferred this obsession to the local library, where I read my way through the junior library, and then at the age of eleven, I moved over to the adult library, and worked my way through using the Dewey decimal system as a guide (in classic autodidact style). The first section, after General Reference, is Philosophy, Psychology and Logic (100-199) so I have a really good grounding in these areas. One particularly influential book was J.B. Priestley’s (1964) dubiously titled Man and Time (115 in the Dewey decimal system), which explored different conceptions of time in science and the arts (my wife bought a copy of this on eBay a few years ago, and strangely it turned out to be from Barking and Dagenham library).

I went to university to study theoretical physics, but dropped out in the first term, and went to work as a kitchen porter and bingo caller before returning to university later to study education with mathematics and psychology.

Two other co-incidences. There is a programme on bingo calling on the radio as I write this. And, as I watched Grace Weir’s video installation, shortly after she walked across the screen, the door opened and she walked into the gallery (only me and one other person there), took some iPhone photos, watched 5 minutes of the film, and left.

Grace Weir watches Fay Dowker in her installation at the Institute of Physics, 2019.


Baetens, J., Streitberger, A., and Van Gelder, H. (eds). 2010. Time and Photography. Leuven Univeristy Press

Dowker, F. 2019. Becoming. In catalogue to Time Tries All Things, installation by Grace Weir, Institute of Physics, London. 21.01.19-29.03.19. [no page]

Eisenstein, S. 1988. ‘The Fourth Dimension in Cinema (1929)’, in Taylor, R. (ed.) Eisenstein Selected Works, Volume One, Writings 1922-1934. London: BFI Press, pp. 181–194.

Forbes, D. and McGrath. R. [no date]. Mari Mahr. London: Architectural Association. [Available at]

Hayles, N. K. 2018. Chaos Bound: Orderly Disorder in Contemporary Literature and Science. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Jay, M. 1993. Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth Century French Thought. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Moholy-Nagy, L. 1947. Vision in Motion. Chicago: Paul Theobald.

Nelson, A. 2010. ‘Suspended relationships: the montage photography books of Moshe Raviv Vorobeichic’, in Baetens, J., Streitberger, A., and Van Gelder, H. (eds) Time and Photography. Leuven Univeristy Press, pp. 141–164.

Priestley, J.B. 1964. Man and Time. London: Aldus Books.

Vorobeichic, M.R. 1931. Ein Ghetto in Osten (Wilma). Schaubücher 27. Zurich/Leipzig: Orell Füssli Verlag.

Vorobeichic, M.R [Moi Ver]. 1931. Paris. Paris: Éditions Jean Walter.

Conference: The Living Image.

9th-10th March 2019, Falmouth University, Institute of Photography

A great opportunity to get to know the work of the tutors better, and hear from students in the later stages of their work. Plus three stimulating presentations online from the USA. I’ll need to revisit this on Canvas, so just sketchy notes at this point, particularly in relation to development of my own work.

Jesse. Offered us a virus metaphor and explored Dawkins’ idea of the body as a vessel for genes, and the passage of the meme (as learnt memory gene). Raised issues for me around the toxicity of analogue photographic processes (related to the pollution around the former chemical plants on Barking marshes) and the vulnerability of the photographic print (and the print as artifact, which resonates with my current work with prints).

Stella. Exploration of hybrid photographic processes (eg. 3D in photoshop, alignment of fine art and commercial photography, combination of analogue and digital (could use this as part of the narrative around Barking marshes in relation to the passage from material to symbolic production, and from analogue to digital photography). Traced the emergence of New Media Arts and changes in the production and distribution of art in the 1980s. Follow up her paper on moire effects and errors, and the idea of asignifying semiotics. Also Hito Steyerl’s ‘How not to be seen‘. See notebook for others.

Paul. Frank exploration of his own biography and the photographic exploration of Blake’s passage along Stane Street. Great images, including shots from the annual Blake graveside gathering.

Michelle. Traced her pathway into photography and interest in sub-cultures and people on the margins. Interesting work on body-change, fragility and transition from childhood to adulthood. Check out 2006 monograph. And Multistory in West Bromwich for art projects.

Katerina. Traced through her MA work on moth trapping. Made reference to post-humanist theory and de-centring. Interesting array of outputs from the project: prints, archives, a small book. Interesting video of stills with music.

Gary. Good insight into his own work and re-photography more generally. Check screenshots from forthcoming book. Interesting exploration of work on Flickr and Instagram. See notes. Check Kedra, 2018, What does it mean to be visually literate, Journal of Visual Literacy, 37(2):81.

Clare. Re-enactment, memory and critique. Ref to Benjamin and Deleuze, and to the work of Jo Spence.

Karen. Short videos. Interviews, and adapts methodology to subject and collaborator. Explores physical space in relation to psychological sense of self. Seeks to use material in an informative and compassionate way.

Cemre. Photographs as objects. Explores how photographs play a part in intimate relationships. See Milktooth and Lohusa films on Vimeo. Double portraits without presence of either (eg umbilical cord as representing a relationship) – links with object related work. Explores changing roles and relationships in ageing. Check

Mark Klett & Byron Woolf. Traced development of their work from survey to more creative exploration. Look at Drowned River (2018) with Rebecca Solnit. Overlaying of images. Now working in digital. Used portable printer in field to produce in situ panoramas. See notes for references.

Charlotte Cotton. Explored background and follow up to Public, Private, Secret at ICP, New York. Noted oblique approach to surveillance. Reference to alterity and othering. Check Zuboff on surveillance capitalism.

FMP candidates. Really interesting and useful insight. Will incorporate into later posting on FMP.

Chris Coekin & Noel Nasr. The Distance is Always Other. Insight into the process of development of the project. Check out book published by Dongola Press. Good on the development of a ‘visual strategy’ (and relationship with temporal and cultural shifts though re-photograph and dual image making). Strong rationale given for the combination of images taken by Noel and Chris at the same time with the same type of camera and film (relating to photographers from different cultural backgrounds addressing the same scene).

Coekin and Nasr, The Distance is Always Other series.

Also insight into how they incorporated sound (including field recordings). Noel’s earlier work also interesting in the use of archive material, printed over his images of scenes of assassination in white ink).

Noel Nasr, Political Assassinations series.

Laruelle, non-philosophy and the arts

I’ve noticed a significant interest in Laruelle’s work amongst cultural and arts theorists recently. The bookshop at the ICA, for instance, has a growing section of books on or by Laruelle. In this short post I want to consider what we might gain, as photographers, from engagement with Laruelle’s work. In doing this, my starting point is O’Sullivan’s (2017) paper, moving on to work by Laruelle (2013) and commentaries by Mackay (2012a; 2012b) and Brassier (2003). It should be noted that Laruelle’s work is famously difficult to read – Derrida complained that his work was impenetrable, but I think this arises from his objection to Laruelle’s refusal to play the conventional game of continental philosophy. Derrida is certainly as difficult to read for those outside the game.

From the start we should note that Laruelle has written specifically on photography (or rather on non-photography). I am not going to deal directly with this work here on two grounds; (i) as noted in earlier posts, the interest of philosophers in photography relates specifically to philosophical questions which are not, necessarily, of core interest to those developing theory in and of the field and practice of photography (in other words, we don’t have to take to heart, and welcome into our theoretical canon, everything that takes photography as its object, particularly in pursuing its own (field) interests); (ii) I am waiting for another reader to return the ‘non-photography’ book to the library. As Mackay (2012a) notes, photography as an idea was important to philosophers before we had the means to produce a photograph. This raises the question of the extent to which we should allow rumination on the idea of photography to dictate, or at least shape, how we think about the practice of photography.

Put in the simplest of terms (with apologies for any resulting symbolic violence), Laruelle sees philosophy as placing itself outside (more precisely, above) the real and makes a commitment (or decision) to produce accounts (understandings) of the real, with resonance, dissonance and disputation between competing, or at least co-existing, philosophical positions. Non-philosophy, or non-standard philosophy, in contrast is grounded in, and remains as an activity within, the real. It cannot produce critical accounts of alternative philosophical positions, as this would entail rising above the real to engage with alternative (philosophical) perspectives. It maintains, however, a relationship with philosophy (it is not anti-philosophy) in that it can use philosophical work as material in its own endeavours (though this will entail the projection, or descent, of philosophy into the real, through its incidences, and consequences, in practice, rather than through customary academic engagement). As a result, non-philosophy produces fictions in the world that are speculative and experimental in character, rather than proposing alternative explanations and interpretations of the world; a heuristic rather than a hermeneutic enterprise.

O’Sullivan (2017) explores six ‘applications’ (p.298) of non-philosophy to art practice. The first is diagrammatics, ‘the practice of decontextualisation, reorganisation, and general manipulation of philosophical material that have been untethered from their properly philosophical function or discourse’ (p.299). What can be done with these untethered materials, freed, for instance, from the need to represent or explain? The second is ‘art as a model’, in which art is conceived as offering, perhaps, a model for how such untethered materials might be deployed. The third is a proposal for a ‘non-art’, which refuses to (auto) position itself with regard to that which came before (and which, through its abstraction from activity, as risen above the real). The fourth is a proposal for ideological critique, offering, perhaps, and means to open up the coalition of contemporary art with neo-liberalism. The fifth is the prospect of performance fictions, where performance come from, and remains within, the world, without being about the world. The final application is the possibility of a fiction of the self, the production of a life lived otherwise, and the consequent question of the constitution of subjectivity. This fictioning entails not the dissolving of self, put the production of a more contingent self.

Both the account of Laruelle’s work and O’Sullivan’s ‘applications’ to art practice above are, by necessity, excessively compressed. I hope, though, that there is sufficient to see resonances with themes explored elsewhere in the CRJ. For instance, the move towards a more speculative way of working, and the use of ‘untethered’ material (whether purposefully untethered or by happenstance, in the case of skeuomorphs, material metaphors, where past function is forgotten in the passage into the present as design). Also the call to generate critical commentary from within practices/fields, and to utilise ‘material’ from other fields in so doing, rather than taking on the concerns of, or being objectified by, discourses that have risen, or been positioned, above practice. And earlier posts on post-humanism. Finally, there is the question of the the tendency (or necessity, perhaps, in their ‘standard’ form) for organising discourses to place their agents in super-ordinate positions, above the general population (for example, where is Frances Galton placed in the bell curve, and where do the parenting practices of the middle classes sit in the professional discourse of childcare?).


Brassier, R. 2003. ‘Axiomatic heresy: the non-philosophy of Francois Laruelle’. Radical Philosophy, 121: 24-35.

Laruelle, F. 2013. Principles of Non-Philosophy, trans. Nicola Rubczak and Anthony Paul Smith. London: Bloomsbury.

Mackay, R. 2012a. ‘Response to Laruelle on Non-Photography’ Presentation at Goldsmiths College, London. Available at: [accessed 03.03.19]

Mackay, R. 2012b. ‘Art and the practice of non-philosophy’ Presentation at Pavilion, Leeds, June 2012. Available at: [accessed 03.03.19]

O’Sullivan, S. 2017. ‘Non-philosophy and art practice (or fiction as method)’. In J.K. Shaw and T. Reeves-Evison (eds) Fiction as Method. Berlin: Sternberg Press.

Imaging Time: Understanding Photography as Time-based Media

The Photographers Gallery, London, 23rd February 2019

‘Traditional notions of photography as frozen or captured moments have long since developed into narratives where the photograph acts as ‘a space of becoming’, in which meaning can be made and explored. Photography’s relationship with time has changed in the digital age, where images are increasingly vulnerable to temporal ambiguity through manipulation and retouching, whilst instantaneous production and distribution has also encouraged a resurgence and return to the use of analogue processes’.

A lot of ground covered in this session. I will just draw out points raised by the presenters that are relevant to the development of my own work, which is clearly grappling with how to address the complex interaction of different points in time.

Catherine Yass. Previous work has taken a positive and negative image of the same scene and overlaid these on a light box. Small differences in time (between exposures) are made visible in this process. She sees the process of overlaying as disrupting sense of space and position. More recent work has involved video from a drone moving around an object, and the slowing of the video to one eighth speed to force interpolation – producing images that have not existed (like the channel mixing composites, where interaction between layers producing images as fictions). She has also looped and manipulated the Harold Lloyd clock scene to play with notion of time and direction. Likewise, leaving 4×5 sheet film in the street to decay and displaying on a lightbox attempts to explore time and decay. Reference also made to Catherine’s work featured in the Wellcome exhibition Living with Buildings: Health and Architecture, which I need to revisit (see earlier post on this here).

Phoebe Boswell. Combines drawing with photography, dealing with questions of archive, memory and time. Layering of stories from different perspectives in the family. Interesting dual channel looped video of herself and her sister sorting through the same photographs. The work begins to create new histories through the layering of accounts. Interesting question about what effect drawing from pictures has on our sense of time and image.

Erica Scourti. Explored the development of her work and the role of photography as intermediary in development and projection of a sense of self, eg So Like You (2014). Proliferation of images undermines sense of uniqueness of experience (by constantly indexing experience with the experience of others). In Bodyscan (2014) used visual recognition algorithms in apps to explore body image. Raised the question of unseen images, and the effects of auto-tagging and categorisation in relation to digital maintenance and female labour. Also refer to more recent work (giving over online and off-line digital data on self to an author to develop a persona) described in ‘Fiction as Method’.

Discussion. Chaired by Lucy Reynolds. Importance of touch and the haptic in conveying a sense of time. Reference made to Eco’s notion of an open work, which allows the reader space to interpret (as opposed to a closed work) – this is important to the complex layered images I am producing at the moment. Question of displacement, as being out of place and out of time, discussed (and displacement is a key issue in urban regeneration, of course). This was related to ‘knowing your place’ in meritocratic and eugenic discourse (exemplified in an extreme and explicit form in Singapore, of course), which denies space to dream and imagine. Discussion also of the strategy (or tactic?) of breaking down images and (re)constructing and (re)membering. Reference made to Grace Weir’s (2019) two screen installation at the Institute of Physics, Time Tries All Things (a meditation on different conceptions of time). Also, briefly, to the physicality of the mobile phone, and how people hold and touch them (undermining the supposed virtuality of images), which resonates with recent work with young adults in Hull. Closing cautionary (and important for my work, which has to keep open multiple accounts and perspective) quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘beware of the single story’ (which also resonates with the unreliable narrator of Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day).

Multi-channel images

Over the past few months I have been struggling with a way to create images that capture the temporal dimension of urban regeneration, encapsulating in some way the past, present and future urban landscape, and place people within this. I have experimented with the juxtaposition of images in early work (using triptych and grid formats) but felt that this was too static a form for such a dynamic process. Following up the work featured in Carol Squier’s 2014 ‘What is a Photograph‘ ICP exhibition led me to the work of James Welling.

I was particularly interested in his Multichannel Works series, in which images are overlayed and manipulated. In his 2017 lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Welling gives insight into the motivation for and production of this series. In earlier work, he explored the use of colour filters with multiple black and white images to produce complex colour images. For a commission to photograph the MoMA sculpture garden, he worked with archival photos over which her layered his own photographs. He placed the archive image in the red channel, and his own images in the blue and green channels.

In this way he sought to echo the work of Warhol and Rauschenberg in their exploration of the screen print process. He was also inspired by Avedon’s psychedelic pictures of the Beatles and his Moondrops campaign for Revlon.

Richard Avedon, 1967, Beatles Posters .

Other influences included the colour solarisation process and the look of Agfacontour equidensity film, which was used for back cover of Bowie’s Aladdin Sane. Subsequently he began to work with digital images and post-processing software. His initial images were architectural, but he later built on his background in contemporary dance to place dancers within particular built environments, including the Glass House (the focus of an earlier architectural study) and brutalist architecture.

Each composite image is produced from three black and white photographs. In post-processing software, each image is assigned to either the red, blue or green channel, and in some cases an equidensity gradient map is used. The three images used in the construction of the 2015 image 9472 from the Choreograph Series, are shown below, together with the final image.

James Welling, 2015, Choreograph Series, 9472.

The final print is produced on an inkjet printer, which Welling uses because it gives a print with texture and a sense of volume and surface, missing in chemical prints. His treatment of prints as artifacts resonates with my own work. Although the work is digitally produced, it gives me the opportunity to explore shooting on film in monochrome (which I can process at home), with the potential for very large prints by shooting on large format. Welling compares with process with the production of double/multiple exposure images in film (as practiced, for instance, by Harry Callaghan), with elements of surprise and improvisation in the production of the image, which also resonates with my artistic interests (in sound and writing as well as visually: the audio control of multi-channel video using Jitter in Max7 achieves similar effects).

The next step for me is to experiment, and get to know what kinds of images work best with this process. These images will include visualisations of developments, photographs of the areas as they are now, photographs of residents and archival material (which might include maps). Producing images that are aesthetically and compositionally strong and also comprehensible will be a challenge. The process itself, inspired by Welling’s work, is just a starting point, and I expect to develop the method and the workflow as I apply the approach to exploration of the context of urban regeneration.

This is my very first attempt, using a photograph of a discussion of self-publishing and post-capitalism at the ICA, a landscape and an experimental close-up.

ICA, The Freedoms of Self-publishing, 08.12.18

As Welling says, you have to know where to stop. Lots, as always, to learn.


International Center of Photography. 2014. What is a Photograph [exhibition]. Curator Carol Squiers. ICP, New York, 31.01.14 – 04.05.14. [accessed 18.02.19]

Welling, James. 2017. Pathological Color, Rouse Visiting Artist Lecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design, 13.11.2017. [accessed 18.02.19]